Libya’s interim rulers say they have captured the desert town of Bani Walid – one of the last strongholds of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi.
A Reuters team in the town reported that forces loyal to the National Transitional Council on Tuesday fired guns into the air and hoisted the country's new flag in the center of the town 150 kilometers south of the capital Tripoli.
Mohammed Shakonah, a military commander with the NTC, said:
"Bani Walid is completely free. It is liberated, 100 percent."
Meanwhile Agence France Press quoted the NTC’s lead commander, Musa Yunis, saying that Gaddafi's troops had “left their vehicles behind and even changed into civilian clothing so they would be hard to find”.
The BBC reported:
Troops had launched a pincer attack from the north and south which met in the city centre, capturing the castle at the heart of the sprawling oasis town.
Jubilant fighters hoisted the red, black and green flag of the new interim government over mosques and other buildings, tearing down the all-green emblem of the ousted regime.
NTC forces have been mounting an assault on Bani Walid for six weeks, and suffered heavy casualties.
Further east, the NTC was still struggling to overcome loyalists Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.
Fierce fighting was reported mid-morning on Tuesday. AFP said NTC fighters suffered at least 23 injuries within 15 minutes of a street battle breaking out.
(Read more on GlobalPost: Angelina Jolie visits Libya to see "a country in transition")